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Killed soldier devoted to family, country, parents say

GEORGETOWN, Texas (CNN) -- The first American soldier to die in Afghanistan from hostile fire was a devoted husband and father of two young children who was equally devoted to serving his country, his father recalled.

Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Ross Chapman, 31, a member of the U.S. Special Forces, was killed Friday by small arms fire in eastern Afghanistan, said Gen. Tommy Franks, head of U.S. Central Command. Chapman's body was flown Saturday to Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

U.S. officials said a CIA officer also was shot in what one official described as an "ambush." The CIA officer's wounds were not life-threatening, officials said.

The San Antonio, Texas, soldier was on a mission "to coordinate with local tribal elements in the vicinity" of Gardez and Khowst, two eastern Afghanistan towns where U.S. forces have been operating to try to choke off Taliban and al Qaeda members fleeing to Pakistan, Franks said.

President Bush talked about Chapman Saturday at a town meeting in Ontario, California.

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Wilbur Chapman, father of U.S. Green Beret Nathan Chapman, killed in Afghanistan, talks about his son. CNN's Frank Buckley reports (January 5)

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"We mourn for Sgt. Nathan Chapman," Bush said. "We pray with his family for God's blessings on them. Nathan lost his life yesterday. But I can assure the parents and loved ones of Nathan Chapman that he lost his life for a cause that was just and important. And that cause is the security of the American people and that cause is the cause of freedom in a civilized world."

Chapman leaves behind a wife, Renae, and two children -- Amanda, 2, and Brandon, 1.

"We are so proud that he had grown into such a wonderful son, who was a proud father, loving husband, and devoted to serving his country," said a statement from Chapman's parents. "He loved the Army and referred to his unit as his second family."

Chapman's father, Wilbur -- retired from the Air Force after 21 years -- said his son called them Christmas morning on a satellite phone, saying he was sorry not to be with his wife and children. "I know, Dad, but I'm with my second family, and they're a great bunch of guys," Wilbur Chapman said his son said.

Chapman's family did not know where he was sent when he was deployed in November, but they deduced from the phone call that he was in Afghanistan.

"He loved what he was doing, and he was willing to do whatever he had to do," his father said. "He was a wonderful son, and we're going to miss him."

Wilbur Chapman said his son was a "fun-loving guy" who loved his children. A skilled marksman, he also enjoyed jet-skiing, snowboarding and woodworking.

Asked what it was like to be the parent of a Green Beret, Chapman's father replied, "You pray for him every night."

Chapman was a member of the Army's 1st Special Forces Group based in Fort Lewis, Washington. He joined the Army in 1988.

He parachuted into Panama during the invasion of that country in 1989, and he also served in Operation Desert Storm. He later went to Special Forces School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Chapman also was in Haiti when the U.S. military had a presence there, his father said.

According to U.S. officials, Chapman's mission involved a joint team of CIA and Special Forces. Members of the elite Delta Force were involved, they said.

When the team reported they were in trouble, a quick reaction team came in and got them out, these officials said.

According to an administration official, President Bush was notified of the death by Franks via video conference during the morning national security briefing at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

The general said the death of the soldier reminds him "of the cost that these great young people pay."

"In each conflict that our nation's been in throughout our history, we have had people hurt, and we've had people killed," Franks told reporters at U.S. Central Command. "And it is no more pleasant today than it has been in the past.

"I'm thankful every day that we have not lost more people than we have lost in this fight. But I will tell you in each case when we have lost someone, I think it touches my command, and it touches all of us very deeply."

While Chapman's is the first American military death from hostile fire, 10 other Americans have died since the campaign began in Afghanistan, including a CIA operative killed in a Taliban prison uprising and three Green Berets killed in an accidental bombing by U.S. planes.




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